Obama: The Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state. Discuss. pic.twitter.com/VwW89Tm9D2
— Brett LoGiurato (@BrettLoGiurato) September 11, 2014
Last night, Obama made a point of stressing that ISIS is not Islamic. The usual suspects had a field day with that line, but Ramesh Ponnuru finds it sort of pointless:
I’m not sure what presidents think they are achieving when they make this assertion. (Bush did it too, all the time.) The alternative would be to say, “They claim to act in the name of Islam, something peace-loving Muslims say is a perversion of their faith,” or just to say nothing about the point. I can’t imagine that a non-Muslim-American president convinces anyone when he tells the world what true Islam is.
So why bother talking about it at all? Maybe it’s because, as Kelly Vlahos describes, America’s post-9/11 Islamophobia never went away and a new war with an “Islamic State” is only bound to make it worse:
According to [James] Zogby’s Arab American Institute, which has been polling Americans on their views of religious and ethnic groups since the 1990’s, Americans’ dislike of Arabs and Muslims skyrocketed after 9/11 and has hardly budged since. Unfavorable ratings for Muslims have declined from a peak of 55 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in July, but at the same time, favorable ratings have plunged, from 41 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2014.
Republican attitudes are clearly skewing the results. When narrowed, 63 percent of Republicans had unfavorable views of Muslims, while only 21 percent had favorable views in 2014. It’s not surprising, considering how Islamophobia has attached itself to Republican politics since 9/11. … Meanwhile, well-funded fringe groups like Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, have attempted to purge Muslim-Americans who have dared to “infiltrate” the White House and other high profile positions throughout federal government. They might have gone too far in 2012, however, when they suggested long-time Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had connections with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Another recent poll illustrates how the link between Islam and violence endures in Americans’ minds:
A Pew Research Center poll released just hours before Obama’s speech showed that 50 percent of Americans see Islam as a religion that “is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers.” The figure’s up sharply from earlier this year and is the highest since Pew started asking that question in 2002. By contrast, 39 percent of Americans say Islam doesn’t encourage violence any more than other religions — down from 50 percent in February. … Not surprisingly, conservatives and Republicans are more apt to see Islam as a more violent religion. Two-thirds of Republicans believe this, while independents and Democrats are below 50 percent.
Igor Volsky and Jack Jenkins lay out some evidence in favor the president’s contention:
President Obama’s condemnation of ISIS is backed up by a global chorus of Muslim voices that are working to rebuke’s the group’s claim on Islam. Virtually every single American Muslim organization has publicly disavowed both the ideology and the practices of ISIS, and just hours before Obama’s address, dozens of Muslim American clerics and community leaders distanced their religion from the beliefs of the terrorist extremists. “ISIS and al Qaeda represent a warped religious ideology,” Faizal Khan, imam of the Islamic Society of America mosque in Silver Spring, said during a press conference with Muslim-American leaders from Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Sudan and Trinidad. “Either we reject this violence in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Islam and the world’s perception of us for years to come.”